Ottawa County named healthiest in Michigan

GVL / Luke Holmes - Jacob Salter and Casey Malburg go for a run around Grand Valleys campus.

GVL / Luke Holmes – Jacob Salter and Casey Malburg go for a run around Grand Valley’s campus.

Drew Howard

New statistics from the 2016 County Health Rankings (CHR) reveal Ottawa County to be the healthiest county in Michigan, though the state as a whole still has some work to do.

Ottawa County took first place for the third year in a row, beating out 82 other Michigan counties. Since 2011, Ottawa County has consistently placed in the top two for the state.

Kristina Wieghmink, communications specialist for the Ottawa County Department of Public Health (OCDPH), said the department was thrilled to read the results.

“We were thrilled to find out Ottawa County ranked No. 1 in the state,” Wieghmink said. “We truly have a community that puts health as a priority, and we work together to make improvements.”

The findings, released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin, rank all counties according to five categories: health outcomes, health factors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment.

Ottawa County proved to be particularly strong in a number of areas, including overall mortality, physical inactivity and unemployment.

Statistics on mortality showed that 220 Ottawa County residents have died under the age of 75 this past year.

In other positive developments, a low 19 percent of respondents reported to having no leisure-time physical activity. Statewide, this number was 23 percent.

Rates of unemployment were also quite low. Out of all individuals aged 16 or older, only 4.7 percent were found to be unemployed but still looking for work.

Despite placing in first, Ottawa County is not without its weaknesses. Areas that are in need of improvement include poor mental health days, excessive drinking and physical environment.

Ottawa County residents were found to have an average of 3.4 poor mental health days in the past 30 days, the highest score charted in the research. Ottawa County also had the highest excessive drinking score at 26 percent, worse than both Michigan and the target value for excessive drinking.

Physical environment is Ottawa County’s worst category, ranking 39th. This is due in part to air pollution, higher costs of housing and long commute times.

While Ottawa County showed strong results, Michigan as a whole is in need of improvement. According to the 2015 America’s Health Rankings, Michigan was ranked in the bottom half at No. 35.

Michigan had higher scores than Ottawa County in the areas of poor or fair health, adult smoking, adult obesity, teen births and premature death, among others.

Wieghmink said the OCDPH recognizes areas in need of improvement and will continue to work toward creating a healthier county.

“While Ottawa County ranked No. 1 in Michigan for health outcomes, it is important to note that we still have work to do,” she said. “Just like every region, we have several health concerns, and we need to implement strategies to improve the health of community members.”

To learn more about the 2016 County Health Rankings, go to